Tag Archives: goat cheese

ACS 2013: Montchevré visit

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I didn’t realize I was going on the unauthorized bus trip until I arrived at 7:30 in the morning and was told so. No, the ACS volunteers didn’t know where my bus was. No, they had no information. I couldn’t, for the moment, reach the rep who set me up on the trip because she was coming from Iowa which, it turns out, is very close to Wisconsin. Eventually a number of us who had signed on found each other and then the bus, tucked behind the bus for the beer and cheese tour.

I guess I should have realized it was unauthorized when I was told it was free.

I have never been to a goat cheese plant like Montchevré outside of France. It really is something. If you can appreciate factories, and I can, it is a brilliant model of organization, planning and efficiency.

You may think I am being sarcastic or damning with faint praise. I am not. Before one criticizes a cheese factory for being a factory, one should examine oneself. My first goat cheese, being a Californian of a certain time period, was hand-made and fresh, but I would imagine most people’s first goat cheese these days is likely Montchevré.* Even though my first punk album** was on a major label, it did not prevent me from searching out more obscure and, as the years went on, more artisan, bands. Think of Montchevré as a gateway cheese.

This is necessary because many people are scared of goat cheese. C’mon, we can admit it here. This is a safe space for real cheese talk. I still get people asking at the counter for “the mildest goat cheese you have.” Montchevré often fills that niche. Also, as one likes to say when one buys for a retail store, the price point is very good. Don’t be snobby. This country needs cheese factories as well as cheese artisans.
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I will add also though that their Bucheron and goat blue are also very good cheeses. And when we replaced the Montchevré Bucheron for the one made in France we were just replacing one factory cheese for another. Because when I said I had not seen this scale of goat cheese production outside of France, I meant it. Many American cheese-fanciers would be shocked to see the scale of production of the companies that make their fancy not-quite-A.O.C. goat favorites. While French factories like Sevre et Belle still have some women ladling curds by hand for a few specific cheeses (because the phrase “hand-ladled” has a distinct meaning in France), French-owned Montchevré has created a similar model of efficiency. I was surprised to see that much of the Montchevré is actually packed by hand as well.

They even have the curd hammocks that Molly and I could not stop making fun of while on our tour of France. Curd Hammock or Kirk Hammett: You don’t have to choose. You can love both.

Montchevré does have the annoying policy, like Emmi USA, of not allowing pictures in their factories. Fear not, lawyers for Montchevré, that picture linked above is from France. Montchevré did allow us to take picture of the anerobic digester though. This little baby produces power for hundreds of neighboring homes. Mmmmm. Sludge.
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We also got to visit a multi-generational farm that won the award for top farm in the Montchevré system. In fact, this is the farm where their goat cam is set up. What is not to love about goats and cute kids who love kids?
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And check out the goat paparazzi:
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They also served us cake. I love cake.
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They also have the best HACCP-inspired head covering in the business. Everyone was required to wear these, beard or no beard. It makes a great Facebook icon too.
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* Montchevré re-packs until many different labels and names, just fyi. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that it may have been your first and you didn’t even know it.

**The Clash, The Clash, even though it was Americanized by the major label it is still one of the best albums ever made.

A visit to Tumalo Farms

I can’t go on vacation without stopping at least one cheese place. However, I didn’t realize that on this trip it would be so easy. We decided to vacation in Bend, Oregon for the hiking and for Beer Week, but it is also only ten minutes from Tumalo Farms. We are currently selling a ton of their Classico Reserve which is one of the best American Aged Gouda-style goat cheeses around.

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I actually think all of the Tumalo cheeses are underrated. Great clean flavor. Good tang. Good sweetness. Great balance of added ingredients to cheese on their flavored cheese… they do not make a mediocre cheese. Partially because Cypress Grove launched their (Dutch) goat gouda (Midnight Moon) years before Tumalo hit the Bay Area, I have always thought that the Tumalo cheeses were really under appreciated down here.

And my timing for visiting was good because I even got to see a few little baby goats
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The farm itself is beautiful. It’s in the high desert of Oregon, surrounded by mountains. If I were a goat, I would love to live there. It was overcast the day I visited, but it is hard to imagine a more picturesque setting.

Oh, what the heck, here is a picture of more cheese:
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here is a picture of me and Flavio DeCastillos, the owner of Tumalo Farms. Can someone remind me to get a haircut before I go on vacation next time?
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p.s. Little Jewels aging. I am putting this here so I remember to order some.
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Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week: Meredith Dairy Feta

Now that the holidays and the food show are done, we can get back to weekly installments of my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week. Originally, I started this series to write about whatever I had the most fun sampling out to customers over the weekend. Well, we finally got back the cheese that is always the most fun to sample.

meredith dairy feta

This is the Meredith Dairy Feta marinated in oil and herbs. This cheese is almost literally irresistible. I would estimate the 90% of the people who try it for the first time put it in their carts. It’s that good.

This batch is a blend of goat and sheep milk though that varies at times. It used to be sold under the brand name 34 Degrees but now is sold under the name of the actual producer, Meredith Dairy. It comes all the way from Australia and has long periods of being out of stock but we always bring it back. People have cried over this cheese numerous times. When they taste it for the first time and also when we tell them we won’t be able to get it for a couple of months.

We have tried to copy this recipe for those times we can’t get it, but we’ve never come close.

True to form, I started sampling this out at 7 PM on Saturday and pretty much emptied the shelf by our 9 PM closing time. At 8 PM, my co-worker Chickenhead and I were packaging up some membrillo and decided to try it with the feta. How was it? I couldn’t get out full sentences. I think what came out of my mouth was just an intelligible random assortment of swear words. It was that amazing.

I wish I had some right now. I may have to go to the store on my day off and get some. That’s how good it is.

Cheese of the Week

Avalanche Cheese Lamborn Bloomers

One of the best new (to me) cheeses that we’ve had in a long time is the Lamborn Bloomers from Avalanche Cheese in Colorado. Seriously, this is one of the best U.S.-made, soft-ripened goat cheeses I’ve ever tasted. Basically it’s a goat Robiola: oozy, milky, fattily satisfying, but it has a depth and complexity not often found in this type of cheese. Lamborn Bloomers is grassy, vegetal, potato-y, and has just enough goaty-tang to remind you what you are eating. Seriously awesome cheese.

Unfortunately – outside of Colorado – the name is somewhat baffling and is one of the ones that makes customers laugh at you when you recommend it (See “Ewephoria”, “Ewe-nique,” and “Fromage-a-Trois”). Using “lamb” in any cheese name will make people assume it is made with sheep milk, especially with the mandatory pun-names assigned to sheep milk cheeses according to the CFR.* Secondly, it sounds like something you would put on baby sheep to ensure their modesty. Third, I was also secretly worried that perhaps the cheese was named after Colorado’s idiot Tea Party Congressman. If it was, I didn’t want to know. The cheese is just that good.

But no, half a minute of internet research shows that the dairy and farm have beautiful “views of Lamborn Mesa”. Whew… I can eat it without worrying again.

*Just kidding. And I don’t mean that as a goat pun.
**I think I’ll just break down and get a new charger for my camera battery instead of just hoping I’ll find it soon. I think this would be better with pictures, don’t you?

(I decided that every week after I work a Saturday behind the counter that I will make a post about my favorite cheeses of the week. This is not a promotional thing; sometimes they may even be out of stock by the time I write this. I just want to share the cheese love. There will be pictures if I remember to bring my camera. If I don’t there won’t. Basically, these will just be the cheese that I most enjoyed sampling out to cheese lovers over the weekend.)